Chelsea v Portsmouth, FA Cup Final, May 15, 2010
It’s always the bloody metatarsal!
Focus ahead of the FA Cup has dramatically shifted on Wednesday onto the suspected broken foot of John Terry. The Chelsea captain reportedly broke his metatarsal in training on Wednesday, forcing the Blues captain to hospital where the sorry news was relayed to the centre half. If accurate, not only will Terry be out of Wembley showpiece this weekend, but his place in the World Cup squad is now seriously in doubt.
UPDATE: Fears over John Terry appear to have been allayed and the centre half should be fit to play in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Nevertheless, the show must go on for the Pensioners and, after scooping Premier League glory in remarkable circumstances as they dismantled Wigan 8-nil, Carlo Ancelotti and his men will be all revved up to claim the first ever double in the club’s history.
Following their record breaking championship season, Chelsea are undoubtedly the favourites for the cup final. 103 goals scored, with the Blues netting seven-and-over four times in the campaign, are stats that would scare stiff most teams in the English top flight. And on paper at least, with Portsmouth having ended the season rock bottom, penniless and in grave danger of completely going out of business, the 2010 FA Cup final looks like on of the most lopsided contests for many a year.
Romantics, though, will point though to the great history of giant-killings which have littered the greatest domestic cup competition in world football. Sutton. Hereford. Wrexham. Wimbledon. And this season the likes of Leeds and Reading. So why can’t Portsmouth, who have made miracles in reaching the final in the first place, add their name to the long list too? (Portsmouth are 5.00 to score first.)
Answer. Because Chelsea seem to be just that much better.
As always, even with John Terry’s absence, King Carlo has a plentiful number of options all over the pitch. The Italian can opt to partner Alex in the heart of his defence alongside either Ricardo Carvalho (for possibly his last ever Chelsea appearance) or Branislav Ivanovic, with Julio Belletti or Paulo Ferreira (also facing their final Chelsea experiences) both ready to step into the breach at right-back if needs be. Ashley Cole and Petr Cech should fill out the rest of the backline. (Chelsea are 1.44 to keep a clean sheet.)
With John Obi Mikel out after picking up a knee injury, Ancelotti also has to decide whether to deploy Michael Ballack with Frank Lampard (1.83 to score first) in the centre of the midfield, or up his attacking ante by playing Deco for his Blues swansong before his summer departure out of London. Elsewhere, the brilliant Florent Malouda will naturally patrol the left hand side, while Joe Cole will be hoping that his England World Cup provisional call-up will convince his manager to play him for ninety minutes – an achievement which he’s only completed three times since returning from injury earlier in the season.
A final point of note on Chelsea’s likely line-up concerns the potential inclusion of Daniel Sturridge in the Blues attack. While it is hugely doubtful that Didier Drogba (3.25 to score first, 1.57 to score anytime) and Nicolas Anelka (4.35 to score first) won’t start the cup final, Daniel Sturridge will be remembered as the starlet of the opening three rounds of this season’s competition when he scored four goals in three matches.
The noise around the Bridge that Chelsea aim to lower the average squad age as a policy this summer has opened the door for the likes of Sturridge (2.37 to score) to lay a claim to being in the first team picture. And, Ancelotti may use a portion of the final to test the young Englishman in the spotlight of a major domestic final. Alternatively, Salomon Kalou could also feature in the final.
Portsmouth fans, by contrast, would do anything to have half the options Chelsea do in selecting their team for Saturday. While the south coasters have been simply incredible in the manner in which they’ve rallied behind their ailing and broke club throughout the most craziest of seasons, they must surely be envious at the riches and the direction which their cup final opponents are heading in as they prepare for next season in the Championship.
Even those hoping that Pompey could summon the fight for one final hurrah, will have had their spirits dampened by the ridiculously long list of absentees on the Portsmouth roster. Aruna Dindane (groin), Marc Wilson (hamstring), Hassan Yebda (thigh) and Richard Hughes (hamstring) are all struggling, but the biggest concern of all surrounds midfielder Jamie O’Hara.
Since arriving on loan from Spurs O’Hara (6.50 to score) has become a leader at Fratton Park and was duly rewarded by the fans as they voted him the club’s player of the season. O’Hara’s tenacity, work-rate and sweet left peg have made him a hero in Portsmouth, but the loanee is touch-and-go to make the final suffering a stress fracture in his back.
The magnitude of the occasion, though, should see O’Hara start at Wembley, and the home of football in England should also see the return of Nadir Belhadj at left-back for Pompey after the Algerian returned to training last week.
Portsmouth’s mooted fire-sale this summer could mean that the final also acts as the last match for goalie David James, defenders Aaron Mokoena and Anthony Vanden Borre, midfielders Michael Brown and Kevin-Prince Boateng and forwards Frederic Piquionne (12.00 to score first, 4.50 to score anytime) and John Utaka. However while all those players will be sorely missed, just as sad for Portsmouth fans will be the departure of Israeli manager (and former Chelsea boss) Avram Grant who has earned cult status with the locals for his work at the club this season.
If Portsmouth were to do the unthinkable and win the FA Cup amid all the brouhaha surrounding their absence from next season’s Europa League, it would surely be one of the greatest fairytales in the competition’s history. However, when we take our heads out of the clouds and consider that Portsmouth haven’t beaten Chelsea since 1957 while losing 5-nil on their own turf when the sides last met in March, nothing other than a Chelsea win seems on the cards.
101gg predicts: Chelsea 3 – Portsmouth 1 (10.00)